Multivitamins

Our rating
No smiley: On the available evidence, this treatment does not seem to be effective.

What is it?

Multivitamins are supplements that contain a range of different vitamins and minerals. They usually come in the form of a tablet.

Different multivitamin supplements use different ingredients. Some multivitamins have different formulations specifically for men, women and children. Multivitamins commonly include B vitamins, vitamin C, fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and minerals such as iron.

For more information on specific vitamin and minerals, see these pages below:

How does it work?

Because multivitamins contain many different vitamins, there are many ways in which they effect the body. For example, some people believe vitamins B9 (folate), B12 and D may assist in treating depressionby impacting the levels of different brain chemicals that are involved in regulating mood. It is not clear how multivitamins specifically may help depression.  

Is it effective?

There is very little scientific evidence to date on multivitamins for the treatment of depression.

One study looked at the effect of multivitamins on a small group of women who had symptoms of distress, including depression. Multivitamins were no more effective than a placebo (dummy pill) at reducing depression symptoms.

Are there any disadvantages?

Some supplements can be harmful or ineffective if you take the wrong dose. For example, large doses of Vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body, and taking too much of these can be harmful. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness and/or poor appetite. 

Talk to your health care professional if you are thinking of taking supplements.

Where do you get it?

Vitamins are present naturally in food. You can buy vitamin supplements in supermarkets, pharmacies, health food shops, and online health shops.  They usually come in tablet, capsule, powder, or oral liquid form. Vitamins may also be given as an injection by a doctor.

Recommendation

There is no evidence to recommend multivitamins as a treatment for depression.

Key references

  • America A, Milling LS. The efficacy of vitamins for reducing or preventing depression symptoms in healthy individuals: natural remedy or placebo? Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2008; 31:157-67.
  • Harris E, Kirk J, Rowsell R, Vitetta L, Sali A, Scholey AB et al. The effect of multivitamin supplementation on mood and stress in healthy older men. Human Psychopharmacology. 2011; 26 :560-67.
  • Long S-J, Benton D. Effects of vitamin and mineral supplementation on stress, mild psychiatric symptoms, and mood in nonclinical samples: a meta-analysis. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2013; 75: 144-53.
  • Oliver-Baxter JM, et al. Effects of vitamin supplementation on inflammatory markers and psychological wellbeing among distressed women: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of integrative medicine. 2018; 16(5): 322-328.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 May 2019